Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Did Ponder deserve as much credit for 2012 playoff run as Peterson?

Posted by: Updated: May 9, 2013 - 12:57 PM
Embrace debate. That’s what the folks at ESPN’s “First Take” want us to do.
 
You. Me. Everybody.
 
Which means, if you’re a subscriber to that way of life, you must wake up each morning like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, pick a bunch of topics – most of which you have only a cursory understanding of – and then shout at each other until you’re blue in the face.
 
It’s great fun. Really it is. And it’s the perfect way to push the sports discussion in mind-numbing directions.
 
So consider this our disclaimer apology for taking you down this path right now. But this morning on “First Take,” Smith and Bayless launched into an asinine discussion on who was more instrumental in the Vikings’ 2012 playoff charge: Adrian Peterson or Christian Ponder.
 
One guy won the league’s MVP award. The other finished 24th in quarterback rating.
 
And we should note that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is to blame for triggering this discussion. After all, it was Spielman who told the NFL Network’s Albert Breer last week that he was thrilled with Ponder’s finish to 2012, saying “I give him just as much credit for getting us in the playoffs as Adrian.”
 
Oh, boy.
 
Did that ever thrill the sensationalized headline seekers and the producers for shows like “First Take.” Away we went on a discussion that probably never should have happened. But since it did, we’ll provide you the direct back and forth from Smith and Bayless and host Cari Champion on whether Ponder was as instrumental to the Vikings’ playoff run as Peterson.
 
Smith: I can’t even ponder the thought. I mean, you’ve got to be kidding me, man. I mean this is ridiculous really. Listen, it’s an executive looking out for his own player. And I understand that. It’s the politically correct thing to do. I get all that. I understand it. But here you have a guy in Christian Ponder who threw 18 touchdowns, just 12 interceptions, didn’t even pass for 3,000 yards. They were relatively pedestrian numbers in today’s NFL. Now, granted he had to go about the last seven games without Percy Harvin. And I understand that. But at the same time, him throwing the football is never really an option anyway. Because that’s not what he’s supposed to do. His primary job description is to stand behind center, snap the ball and turn around and give it to Adrian Peterson. Which is what he did most of the time. Which is the right thing to do. Because Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards. Adrian Peterson averaged [more than ] 6 yards per carry. Adrian Peterson was a man amongst boys. He’s the one who did all of these things, OK. You look at a guy like Christian Ponder and you’re like, ‘OK. God bless you. You didn’t screw up too much. You didn’t get in the way. Congratulations.’ And if that’s the reason for giving him credit, I’m all for it. But to act like he was significant, that he did something special and he proved himself to be a viable franchise caliber quarterback? Utter nonsense. It’s just ridiculous. Not even worth entertaining.
 
Bayless: Now he didn’t say he was a viable franchise type quarterback. He just said he deserves as much credit for our stretch run as Adrian Peterson.
 
Smith: Well, you know what, so does the offensive line, so does the crowd, so do the people in the concession stand. Whatever. Please.
 
Bayless: Stephen A., question. In the National Football League, what position is more important: quarterback or running back?
 
Smith: Quarterback.
 
Bayless: Thank you. There is no way the Vikings make the playoffs if Christian Ponder hadn’t been at least pretty good. And I think he was pretty good down the stretch in their last four games. You give him no credit. You should give him a little bit of credit. In those last four wins, he threw four touchdown passes and only one interception over the last four wins they needed to sneak into the backdoor of the playoffs. And they barely got in there as you know. … The point is the game they had to win against your Green Bay Packers, help me out. I get a little foggy in my memory here. Fourth quarter, did Adrian Peterson play quarterback? Was he the one throwing the football when it got to be third-and-11 on the Vikings 27? And all of a sudden, I think it was that Ponder guy … Let me ponder the thought. I think it was the quarterback who dropped back and threw 25 yards to Michael Jenkins to set up the game-winning field goal. And I think it was the quarterback who hit three of five passes for 93 yards against your Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter. Including a touchdown pass that got them back in the game in the first place. I don’t know. I think Christian Ponder’s been pretty good. And I think you need to give him some credit. As his GM just did.
 
Smith: First of all, when we talk about the Green Bay Packers, the Green Bay Packers are relevant to me for one reason and one reason only. The bad man that he is, the best quarterback in the game of football known as Aaron Rodgers. That’s number one. I’ve never raved about Green Bay’s defense. As a matter of fact, I thought it’s been horrid the last two seasons. Let me get that out of the way. Secondly, Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings had the 31st-ranked offense in yards passing. I mean, they were awful. They were No. 2 in the league in rushing because of Adrian Peterson. They were No. 20 in the league in offense overall, because of Adrian Peterson. That prevented them from being dead last. Christian Ponder? Maybe he can make a few throws. I’d like to believe somebody playing the quarterback position can do that. So what? In the end, he deserves as much credit as Adrian Peterson? Stop it. Not even close.
 
Bayless: In the fourth quarter, against that bad man known as Aaron Rodgers, my eye test told me that Christian Ponder outplayed your guy Aaron Rodgers, the second best quarterback in the National Football League.
 
Smith: We won’t even discuss such idiocy. That is ridiculous.
 
Bayless: That’s what I saw.
 
Smith: Christian Ponder? I didn’t see that. I don’t even recall seeing that. Please.
 
Bayless: That’s what I saw. And maybe every dog has its day. But I think Christian Ponder had a day that day.
 
Champion: You say Ponder outplayed Aaron Rodgers?
 
Bayless: Yes. In the fourth quarter, he definitely did. And the Vikings won that game. To get in the playoffs. Give it up for Christian Ponder.
 
To close, we’ll give the moderator from “Billy Madison” the final word.
 

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